Mangaung African Cultural Festival

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The Mangaung African Cultural Festival (MACUFE) is held annually in Bloemfontein and it was launched in September 1997 by the provincial government of the Free State, supported by the television channel SABC2.

Mission Statement

Develop MACUFE by showcasing the best local and international African artists in various disciplines, providing a quality professional service through an extensive and structured marketing campaign utilizing the multi-skilled professional staff, established infrastructure and resources at its disposal. (MACUFE Website)


Although the emergence of an arts festival circuit after 1994 in the New South Africa was a key development in SA professional theatre, most festivals did relatively little to specifically explore or celebrate black (South) African culture, theatre or theatre-makers. Obviously every festival typically had a number of black artists taking part in productions, and audiences included some black theatre-goers, but the participation of the white and Western-oriented theatre-makers, as well as audiences, disproportionately outweighed the contribution from black African and historically disadvantaged artists and festival-goers. Apart from some exceptional cases, English and Afrikaans were used almost exclusively on the festival stages. (JvH)


At the announcement of the festival in 1997 the general manager of SABC2, Thaninga Msimango, declared that “the concept was initiated because there was no cultural festival that expressed the rich culture of indigenous South Africans.” And the Free State MEC for sports, arts and culture, M.W. Molefe, added that “most popular and successful festivals in South Africa are focused on Eurocentric culture, paying scant regard to indigenous African culture” (Makhaya, 1997). Officially dubbed an “African cultural festival”, rather than an “arts festival”, the intention was clear: to stage an event that would recognise and celebrate indigenous African cultural heritage, and specifically as a balance to the other arts festivals which were perceived to do little in that regard. (JvH)

Early History - 1997 to 2000

MACUFE has been staged annually in the spring since 1997. In the first four years of its existence the Festival had made very little contribution to the South African professional theatre, Afrocentric or other. Its specific aim was cultural, Afro cultural. The main focus was on music, song and dance and other cultural activities, with relatively little focus on theatre. Productions that were staged in the first four years were extremely poorly attended. In 1997, for instance, Bergville Stories (written and directed by Duma ka Ndlovu), On My Birthday (written and directed by Aubrey Sekhabi) and Woza Albert! (by Mtwa & Ngema and directed by Danny Moleko) were staged and, although tickets cost only R1.00, most performances drew audiences of fewer than twenty people (Swart, 1997). By 2000 the attendance figures for live theatre productions staged at MACUFE had not improved much. MACUFE was, however, becoming part of the arts festival circuit and a number of productions that had premièred at the Grahamstown Festival or the KKNK were staged in Bloemfontein. Most of those, however, were “Eurocentric”, staged in English and/or Afrikaans and did little to contribute to the original objective of celebrating “indigenous” African culture. (JvH)

Later History - 2000 onwards

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